Many meeting organizers feel that if they’re going to spend time and money coordinating a large-scale meeting, they should cram as much information into the event as possible. However, an increasing number of companies are discovering that scheduling more free time for participants actually improves the quality of the overall meeting. Cast your mind back to the last all-day meeting or conference you attended. Odds are you walked into the meeting bright eyed and eager to learn about the scheduled topics. By 10:30 your mind was starting to wander, and by 11:45 you were concentrating more on your watch than the speaker.

We all know how important it is to take quick breaks in order to revive interest levels and accommodate limited attention spans. But in longer meetings and conferences, attendees want more than a 15-minute coffee break. They want some quality free time away from the meeting, in order to process the information they have just received, network with colleagues, and prepare themselves for the upcoming session.

Lunch buffets, golf rounds and cocktail hours are some of the traditional means of scheduling "down-time." But if your meeting is running on a budget, you don’t have to break the bank just to provide some light relief.

Consider holding your meeting in an area where there are plenty of attractions such as cafes, museums, parks and walkways. Then print off a quick guide to the area and let meeting attendees fill in their own afternoon with colleagues.
Vary your agenda so that everyone experiences a change of scenery. Instead of having lunch brought in to the meeting room, go to a nearby restaurant, café or food court.
Provide bagged lunches that people can eat outdoors.
Schedule afternoon tea at a nearby museum or art gallery, and let attendees enjoy the exhibits.

How many times have you flown to an off-site meeting and you’ve had to arrive on a Saturday (or leave on a Sunday) in order to catch a cheap flight? If you’re organizing the meeting, you may want to consider scheduling events to fill in these days. Organize a group hike, arrange a snorkeling course, or book an afternoon of horseback riding. There’s nothing worse than a meeting that starts on the wrong foot because attendees are resentful of the extra time they’ve spent away from home.

Remember that providing down time does not mean encouraging employees to "slack-off." With everyone leading more stressful lives, our overall productivity is suffering immensely. It’s unrealistic to expect anyone to function at optimum efficiency for 12 hours a day without a reprieve. If you want meeting attendees to absorb information, participate in discussions, and formulate ideas, you have to balance work and free time effectively. And since the payoff is more productive meetings, the cost has to be worth it!

1.Successful Meeting's Leisure Time Study

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